Backing Track

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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Backing Track

Post by satijn »

A few days ago i made a song for my girlfriend i added a backing track and provided the sax solo.
Originally it was meant to be just for her ears alone. i eventually asked a friend to help me in the backing track to bring the harmonies together, and i explained this song would be private use.

however my girlfriend upon hearing the song, was over joyed and felt i should monitize the song.
Upon telling my friend he wanted to have composer rights to the song along with me , or come with a compromise...
I can use the song in any media but credit the backing track to him 100% and I take credit for the sax solo.

My girlfriend thinks its unfair , as i laid the original track and he added to it, so he shouldnt get 100% of the backing track attributed to him.

in her words its like going in to make a cartoon movie with a partner and only being credited for the dialogue, while they take the animation.

is she right? waht would be a reasonable compromise?
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Re: Backing Track

Post by AndyJ »

Hi satijn,

Working out whether or to what extent a piece of music or song lyrics are joint works is notoriously difficult. It often happens when bands split up, and it is necessary to divide up the various shares each former member made to composing the songs. However it is as well to get this sorted out before any real money is involved. Obviously you feel that the friend's contribution on the harmonies had some value otherwise you would have done his part yourself. The alternative would be to revert to the basic backing track and sax part which you wrote on your own and create new harmonies yourself, thus cutting his part out before releasing the song.

There are formulas called composer split sheets* which can be used to evaluate to contributions made by co-writers, but they are still fairly subjective, and so I think it would be much quicker and easier to talk it through and come to a compromise which you both can live with. If necessary, involve a mutual friend who has sufficient musical knowledge to arbitrate. If you can come up with a compromise, make sure you write it down and get the agreement witnessed. This could save disputes later if and when the song starts earning royalties. Register your respective interests with PRS, as they ultimately will need to distribute any earnings from the song.

Bear in mind that assuming you agree some percentage split in the rights to the overall music (but not the lyrics if there are any) the work becomes one of joint authorship, meaning that any future decision over the exploitation of certain rights (say, whether to allow someone else to make a cover version of the song, or for the track to be used in an advert) will need to be agreed by both of you.

* There is another thread here which goes into composer split sheets in a bit more detail.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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